JOHANNESBURG: Faf du Plessis announced on Monday that he was stepping down as South Africa´s cricket captain with immediate effect.
Du Plessis, 35, said he needed to take “a step back” from the captaincy in order to help the emergence of the next generation of leaders under Quinton de Kock.
De Kock led the team in recent one-day and Twenty20 internationals against England while Du Plessis was being rested.
It was announced last month that De Kock would be South Africa´s long-term one-day captain but in Monday´s statement, Du Plessis said he was also relinquishing the Test and T20 captaincy.
The announcement clears the way for De Kock to lead South Africa at the T20 World Cup in Australia in October and November and possibly to lead the Test team in a two-match series in the West Indies in July and August.
In a statement issued by Cricket South Africa, Du Plessis said he wanted to concentrate on contributing to the team as a batsman and senior player.
Du Plessis captained South Africa in 112 matches across all formats, including 36 Tests.
He said his time away from cricket since the end of the Test series against England last month had given him “a lot of perspective”.
Du Plessis added, “It has been a rewarding, sometimes tough and other times a lonely road, but I would not replace the experience for anything, because it has made me the man that I am proud to be today.”
He said the decision to step down was one of the toughest decisions he had made but he said he was committed to supporting De Kock, coach Mark Boucher and the rest of his team-mates.
“After the 2019 ICC World Cup, I made the decision to continue in my role as captain while the team went through a rebuilding phase following the retirement of some key senior players and a complete overhaul of the coaching staff that we had worked with until then,” he said.
“It was important to me that I stayed to help the team find its feet and plot a new way forward while assisting in identifying the next generation of leaders during a time of turbulence in SA cricket. The last season of my captaincy has been the most challenging to date as I had a lot of off-field issues that I devoted my energy towards.”
Du Plessis took over as limited overs captain in 2012 and became Test captain in 2016. He built up a reputation as one of the country´s outstanding leaders with his achievements including home-and-away series wins against Australia in both Tests and one-day internationals.
But South Africa lost eight of their most recent nine Tests under his leadership and had a poor World Cup. This period coincided with upheavals in administration and the firing of coach Ottis Gibson and most of his backroom staff, as well as the retirement of key players.
“I have strived to lead the team with dignity and authenticity during exhilarating highs and devastating lows,” said Du Plessis.
“In a perfect world I would have loved to lead the team in the Tests for the rest of the season as well as the T20 World Cup, but sometimes the most important attribute of a leader is to be selfless.
“I am healthy, fit, energised and motivated and certainly see myself playing an important role in the squad for as long as I continue putting in winning performances for the team.”
Jacques Faul, acting chief executive of CSA, paid tribute to Du Plessis.
“He has always put the team first,” said Faul.
“Following the retirement of Vernon Philander he and Dale Steyn are the last survivors of the golden generation that took the Proteas to the top of the Test rankings and he still has a vital role to play as we bridge the gap between one generation and the next.”